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The birth of democracy: in ancient Athens, a leader named Pericles opened government to all citizens.


Pericles, a politician

Anaxagoras (on-ok-SAG-ur-us), a philosopher, and Pericles's tutor

Ephialtes (ef-ee-AL-teez), a politician

* Crowds 1-4, groups of Athenian citizens

Cimon (KY-mohn), a wealthy politician

* Landlord

* Farmer

* Messenger

President of the Assembly

* Aristocrat

* Soldier

* Laborer

Narrators A-D

* An asterisk indicates an imaginary character. All others were real people.

While kings and tyrants ruled over most city-states in ancient Greece, the citizens of Athens developed a new form of government called "democracy," meaning government by the people.

At the start of the 5th century B.C., every citizen in Athens could vote as a member of the Assembly. But only the wealthiest could sit on the Council of the Areopagus. This group of aristocrats could overturn decisions made by the Assembly.

Some Athenians believed it was time to give more power to the common people. One man helped to bring about this change. His name was Pericles.


Narrator A: In 493 B.C., Pericles is born into a leading Athenian family. As a youth, he has a tireless thirst for knowledge. One of his tutors is a philosopher named Anaxagoras.

Anaxagoras: Pericles, let us study outside today.

Pericles: The sun god Helios blesses us with his warmth.

Anaxagoras: Actually, Pericles, the sun is a ball of fire, not a god.

Pericles (shocked): Don't you believe in the gods of Mount Olympus?

Anaxagoras: I believe in the intelligence of all creation. Look at that bee taking nectar from a flower. The flower provides food for the bee, and the bee helps pollinate the flower.

Pericles: They are working together for the common good.

Anaxagoras: Yes. The people of Athens could work together in the same way.

Narrator A: Anaxagoras introduces Pericles to the most-advanced ideas of their time. Pericles develops a sharp, questioning mind.


Narrator B: By 463 B.C., Pericles has entered the political life of Athens. The most-powerful Athenian leader is Cimon, a general and member of the Areopagus. Pericles sides with the party of the democrats. They are led by Cimon's archrival, Ephialtes.

Ephialtes: Pericles, you're a powerful public speaker. Help me bring down Cimon and his rich friends in the Areopagus.

Pericles: With pleasure. It is time the ordinary citizens governed our city--and we should lead them!

Narrator B: Pericles first takes on Cimon in the Assembly. More than 6,000 people are present. They fill the hall with commotion.

Pericles: Citizens, Cimon led our navy well in fighting the Persians. But has he fought the Macedonians, who want to destroy us? No! Why should he and the Areopagus control everything? The rich grow richer, while you hardworking men struggle to survive.

Crowd 1: Down with the aristocrats!

Cimon: Pericles may be handsome and athletic, my friends. But what does he know about your lives? Haven't many of you visited my home, and shared a meal with me?

Crowd 2: Cimon is right!

Pericles: Do you want to feast at Cimon's elegant home? Or do you want to control your own destiny? It is time to wrest away all of the power held by a handful of privileged men. Power belongs to the people.

Narrator B: Rival supporters of the two men try to shout each other down. Pericles fails to defeat Cimon at first. But there are many struggles to come.


Narrator C: Meanwhile, daily life goes on. The agora in Athens bustles with activity. People crowd the marketplace, buying olives, cheese, and fish, dodging pigs and sheep--and arguing passionately about politics.

Landlord: Pericles wants to give more power to the Assembly. What's next? Should we allow women, slaves, and foreigners to vote?

Farmer: I'm for Pericles! He wants to pay people who serve on juries. That means regular citizens--not just rich people--could do jury duty.

Narrator C: Over time, Pericles becomes well respected. In 462 B.C., he and Ephialtes persuade Assembly members to strip the Areopagus of much of its power. The following year, they convince the Assembly to ostracize Cimon.

Pericles: Citizens, each of you take a shard and write Cimon's name. We will strip him of power.

Narrator C: But Pericles has little time to celebrate his victory

Messenger: Pericles, I have bad news. Ephialtes has been murdered!

Pericles: The aristocrats must have done it! If they can't get their way legally, they resort to murder.

Narrator C: Pericles becomes the leader of the democrats' party. Soon, he is the most powerful politician in Athens. The men of the Assembly listen eagerly to his reforms.

Pericles: I propose that we pay public officeholders, so that all citizens can afford to participate in their government. Furthermore, a citizen should be able to hold any office.

Narrator C: At Pericles's urging, the Assembly begins to pass a series of reforms that give citizens more rights. In the future, historians will call Pericles's time the golden age of Greek democracy.


Narrator D: Not everyone supports Pericles and his reforms. Pericles also tries to make Athens the strongest military power in Greece. He leads Athens into costly wars. As the years pass, Pericles's critics in the Assembly become bolder.

President of the Assembly: Who wishes to address the crowd?

Narrator D: The first to stand is a young aristocrat.

Aristocrat: What is this nonsense called democracy? Athens is being run by an ignorant mob!

Soldier: Power has gone to Pericles's head. That is why he always wears a helmet.

Aristocrat: He wears a helmet because his head is shaped like an onion.

Crowd 3 (shouting): Onionhead!

Narrator D: Pericles asks for a moment to speak. It is granted.

Pericles: Friends, look around you. Athens is flourishing. We are the envy of Greece! The greatest thinkers, playwrights, and artists flock to our citystate. Instead of arguing, we must make Athens even greater. Let us now honor the patron of our city, the goddess Athena. Let us build her a magnificent temple. We will put it on the sacred hilltop of the Acropolis, which the Persians destroyed in battles.

Laborer: Say what you will about Pericles he knows how to create jobs!

Crowd 4 (cheering): Long live Pericles! Long live Athens!


For nearly 30 years, Pericles led Athens. The rebuilding that he began made his city the grandest in Greece. But war with Sparta began in 431 B.C. Years of fighting nearly ruined Athens's great democratic experiment.

Pericles died in 429 B.C. Without an effective leader, Greek democracy gradually fell apart.

The system of democracy in the United States is partly modeled after the Athenian government. But Athens was a direct democracy citizens made the decisions. In the U.S., elected representatives make most decisions on behalf of the people they serve. Some people might argue that ancient Athenians enjoyed a fuller participation in government than we do today. Do you agree?


The ancient Greeks loved sports. Their most important sporting event was the Olympic Games. The Games began in 776 B.C. and continued until 393 A.D.

Competitions took place every four years. Individuals from across Greece traveled to Olympia to participate and to honor Zeus, the King of the gods. During the five-day religious festival, athletes tested their strength and speed in boxing, wrestling, chariot races, and foot races. Hang athletes performed naked, their bodies rubbed in olive oil.

The Games were revived in Athens in 1896.

Words to Know

* Acropolis: the highest hill in Athens, the site of most temples and government buildings.

* agora: the marketplace in the center of a city.

* Areopagus (or-ee-OP-uh-gus): an Athenian council made up of wealthy citizens, who were members for life.

* aristocrat: a member of the upper class.

* citizen: a freeborn Athenian male 18 or older. In ancient Athens, women, slaves, and immigrants were not considered citizens.

* city-state: an independent state consisting of one city and the region around it.

* ostracize: to exclude. Each year, Athenians could vote to exile a person for 10 years by writing his name on a shard of pottery.

Think About It

1. Why couldn't common people serve on juries before Pericles's time?

2. How do you and your friends make group decisions? Does one person take the lead, or do you go with the decisions of the majority? Explain.


* Objectives

Students should be able to:

* understand the significance of an ancient culture and a historical figure.

* understand that an early form of democracy influenced our modern version.

* Word to Know

* ostracize: to exclude from a group by common consent.

* Background

Even though he favored democracy, Pericles was always trying to expand his personal power. His desire for conquests also led to Athens's downfall. The Peloponnesian War with Sparta began in 431 B.C. Two years later, Pericles died ill a horrific plague that broke out in Athens. Athens would never recover from its defeat in 404 B.C.

* Critical Thinking

RECALLING DETAILS: How does Pericles's tutor, Anaxagoras, challenge his thinking? (by causing the boy to question the conventional view that the sun is a god)

CRITICAL THINKING: How do the appeals of Cimon and Pericles to the men of the Assembly differ? (Cimon appeals to their gratitude for his hospitality. Pericles suggests that they should control their own destiny.)


DETERMINING POINT OF VIEW: The Greek Assembly was a place of open debate. Let students imagine that they are in the Assembly, arguing for or against Pericles's idea of democracy. Encourage students to give reasons to support their arguments. Does the aristocrat in the play have a point when he argues against rule by an ignorant mob?



* Power, authority, and governance: The concept of democracy first came into being in the ancient world.



* Ferris, Julie, Ancient Greece (Kingfisher, 1999). Grades 5-8.

* Whiting, Jim, The Life and Times of Pericles (Mitchell Lane Publishers, 2005). Grades 5-8.


* The Greeks: Crucible of Civilization

* Democratic Experiment

WORLD HISTORY EXTRA Gods of Ancient Greece

* Background

The ancient Greeks worshipped many deities. (Two--Helios and Zeus--are mentioned in the play and sidebar on pp. 14-17.) Greeks believed that 12 of those gods ruled the Universe from atop Mount Olympus, Greece's tallest peak.

* Zeus (ZOOSE): god of the sky; King of Olympus. His anger makes lightning flash and thunder roar.

* Hera (HEER-uh): goddess of marriage; Queen of Olympus. Wives in need pray for her help.

* Poseidon (puh-SYE-dun): god of the sea. Second only to his brother Zeus in power, his anger causes earthquakes.

* Hades (HAY-deez): King of the Dead. His helmet made anyone who wore it invisible.

* Athena (uh-THEE-nuh): goddess of wisdom. She is a skillful warrior.

* Apollo (uh-PAL-oh): god of music, healing, and truth; Artemis's twin. He is unable to lie.

* Artemis (AHR-tuh-mis): goddess of the bunt; protector of children; Apollo's twin. She is an expert with bow and arrow.

* Aphrodite (AF-roh-DYE-tee): goddess of love and beauty. She is the protector of sailors. * Hermes (HUR-meez): messenger of the gods. His helmet and sandals have wings.

* Ares (AIR-eez): god of war. He is badtempered and cowardly.

* Hephaestus (hih.FESS-tus): god of fire; maker of the deities' weapons. He is quiet, peaceable, and friendly with the other deities.

* Hestia (HESS-tee-uh): goddess of the hearth (home fireplace). Greeks blessed her before and after every meal.

* Activity

NAME GAME: Ancient Romans later worshipped these deities. What were the Roman names of these 12? (See Answers, T-4.)



* Culture: Like other ancient cultures, the Greeks believed in many deities, each controlling a particular aspect of mortals' lives.



* Bolton, Lesley, The Everything Classical Mythology Book (Adams Media Corp., 2002). Grades 5-9. Evslin, Bernard, The Greek Gods (Scholastic Inc., 1995). Grades 5-9.


* Greek Mythology Quiz

* Greek and Roman Mythology


Greek Gods/Name Game, p. T-3

Jupiter (Zeus), Juno (Hera), Neptune (Poseidon), Pluto (Hades), Minerva (Athena), Apollo (Apollo), Diana (Artemis), Venus (Aphrodite), Mercury (Hermes), Mars (Ares), Vulcan (Hephaestus), Vesta (Hestia)
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Title Annotation:World History Play
Author:Waugh, Rachel
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Article Type:Play
Date:Oct 30, 2006
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